The Curious Case of Reading Manga (and understanding what goes into it)

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As we all know, those who read manga have many ways to do it. You have numerous companies putting their money into translating and releasing these beautiful volumes, and then you have scanlators who do their part in uploading manga translations faster, and of course, free. There has been a slight debate in this topic, I’m not sure if it was considered big, but I believe it’s something that should be discussed.

I understand why people love scans, and heck I was one of those people. It took me a while to really learn that scans are not official. Sure, they get the manga out faster, and depending on who’s translating they could be better than the official translators, but the one thing that really made me stop and think was the fact that the mangaka were not getting any compensation because of this. When I was starting out reading manga online I thought places like mangapanda, mangahere, mangafox, were all official places to read manga. Their websites were only dealing with manga, and it released them in an orderly fashion. The best part was that it was free 🙂 But as I grew older and started hearing what a mangaka’s life is like, I was shocked at how little mangaka get when putting all their blood, sweat, and tears into something special.

This may just be repetitive knowledge for some, but I bet a good chunk of anime/manga fanbases don’t know what a manga author’s schedule is like, so let’s change that and put it into perspective. American comics come out once a month, recently they’ve been experimenting with weekly but let’s ignore that for this purpose. In that one month a team has to write, draw, ink, color, letter, and print (I’m sure I’m missing some key spots) a comic. Keep in mind that majority of manga is black and white, and with the exception of coloring, a mangaka has a week to do everything that an American comic does in one month. To really ingrain in you what their schedule is like I put a diagram below :

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As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this diagram, of an average mangaka’s schedule, shows that he/she only has three hours per week to do whatever they want for fun. If you have a successful series, plus a family, it’s astounding that they made it past a year. I know I couldn’t keep something like this up, and it’s because of this that I have the utmost respect for anyone who attempts at making a manga.

Masashi Kishimoto, creator of Naruto, started his hit series in September of 1999 and concluding it in November of 2014. For fifteen years this guy has been writing and drawing Naruto. During this time he got married and had a kid, who I think is around six. He stated in an interview (1) that he married his wife ten years before Naruto ended, and now that Naruto was over he could finally go on his Honeymoon.

Eiichiro Oda, creator of One Piece, is the most famous (or would this case be infamous?) schedule. Everybody who reads One Piece knows that Oda puts everything he can into his manga, even if that means sacrificing himself. In 2012 he stated that he woke up at 5am and stopped at 2am only to sleep for two to three hours (2). Recently, it’s been heavily talked about that he only sleeps two hours a night.

Not only is this habit bad for your body, but this year alone had so many news stories about mangaka taking breaks, because their health was not in good condition. So many manga series have been taking breaks from what is always reported to be an “illness.” Oda himself now takes one week per month as a break.

Yoshihiro Togashi is famous for Yu Yu Hakusho, and Hunter x Hunter. When he was working on Yu Yu Hakusho it was stated that jump was trying to force him to take his story in places he didn’t like, and ultimately it hurt Togashi’s body to the point where he basically said “screw you” to them and canceled Yu Yu Hakusho. When he started Hunter x Hunter he was given more authority than most mangaka in creating his manga, which is the reason he takes a hiatus every so often. Last December, there was an article that Togashi hurt his back and had to go to the hospital.

Being in the manga industry is difficult. Companies could bully you, you may not have enough money to hire assistants so you have to use all your waking hours on making the manga, and you kinda have to put your life on hold until your successful manga is done. (To learn a little bit more into the hard working life of a mangaka see reference 3)

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After learning all this, and hearing about so many horror stories surrounding this environment, it’s hard not to have any respect for these very brave people. And it’s because I got to learn more about how these people work, and how they usually are paid little for all that work, that I really decided to sit down and explore ways where I feel I could help, and the only thing I thought that I could really say “thank you” to them was buying, and paying to read their work.

I try my hardest to find ways to support the manga. The easiest way is to just go out and buy their manga. I’m a huge supporter of physical copies and my collection is growing at a very nice rate (I’m over the 400 vol limit!), but I do understand that a lot of people just don’t have the funds or the space to support such a large hobby, but that doesn’t give you an automatic pass to go back to scans.

All the most popular series are translated, in some form or another, online for you to support. If you are up to date on One Piece, Bleach, Nisekoi, World Trigger, Seraph of the End, or really any viz titles, then you can pay $25 for a yearly subscription to Shonen Jump. You can go on vizmedia.com and sign up, you’ll get their weekly shonen jump issue every Monday, and the only down side is that you won’t be part of the conversation on Thursdays.

Another option is Crunchyroll. They are mostly known for anime streaming, but “recently” they put up a manga section. They translate and post manga chapters whenever they drop from Japan. You do have to be a subscriber to them, but here’s the kicker: all your money that you pay per month, basically gets divided up to support whatever you watched/read that month. Say you read 90 chapters of Seven Deadly Sins, one episode of Diamond no Ace, and one episode of Naruto for the month of August. Then your subscription fee of $7 (or whatever their price is) is divided up between those series, with Seven Deadly Sins getting most of your $7 because you spent more time with that compared to the two anime episodes (4).

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Unfortunately, there are so many manga out there that it’s impossible to find places to support the manga if it isn’t popular. I know several series where you can only read scans, because they just are not licensed, and probably will never be licensed. Sadly, I don’t have an answer for that. If scans is the only way to read that series you’re very interested in, who am I to say you can’t? But, if you like the series that are licensed, and you do have that small pocket of money to support it, then please at least consider supporting something that is licensed than read it for free.

We live in an age where series I never thought would get licensed do. Yowamushi Pedal, Princess Jellyfish, Love Stage, Jojo’s (freakin’) Bizarre Adventure; all of these titles are getting a chance, and the only way that the publications know that we want this stuff over here is with our money. Whether that’s checking it out on a small subscription budget, or going balls to the wall and paying retail for each volume, it is up to us as fans to dictate what we want over here, and the fact that we can support the people who sacrifice so much, and most probably bleed, sweat, and cry to make their manga available, should be told thank you.

Reference:

1- http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2014-11-19/masashi-kishimoto-to-start-work-on-next-title-after-naruto-after-next-summer/.81192

2-http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2012-11-29/one-piece-creator-eiichiro-oda/i-sleep-from-2-to-5-a.m

3- http://www.quora.com/What-is-life-like-as-a-manga-artist

4- http://otakujournalist.com/where-your-crunchyroll-dollars-really-go-an-interview-with-the-ceo/

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